View Full Version : Career Tips: Level Design

12 December 2003, 09:52 PM
NOTE: Mods, if this is not a good forum for this to be in, please feel free to move it!

Thanks to atenyotkin for #3!

On Thursday, December 4, 2003, I had a telephone interview with the level design team at Monolith Productions. While I didn't have the experience that they were looking for, they were very helpful in offering advice on how best to get into the game industry as a level designer. I thought I would compile the tips they gave me in a little post here to help out any hopefuls.

If you want a job as a level designer, you need to have a lot of experience making single player maps. They more or less give two shits about multiplayer mapping. Here is a list of things that you should keep in mind while you are making your mapping portfolio:

A - It doesn't matter what engine you use. It doesn't have to be the latest greatest technology out there. They said using Half-Life is perfect because it is popular software, and everyone is familiar with it. Also, it has a lot of flexibility for creating exciting single player levels.

B - Don't worry about custom content. They said it's almost better if you use the stock dialog, characters, and textures, because it shows how creative you can be with a limited toolset. Use old dialog in interesting new ways, use old textures on new architecture, etc etc.

C - Create the core of your maps first. They said a good way to develop your single player maps is to plot out the basic architecture and objectives and bad guys. Then compile and send off to people who will give you good, serious, critical feedback. Once you have a good solid core, then start adding the flashy stuff - scripted sequences, special effects, more architectural detail, etc.

D - Create a 3-map story arc. It doesn't have to be a complex or utterly brand new story, but it should be interesting, and the map's layout should correspond to the atmosphere and objectives that you are trying to convey. The mini-adventure should stretch across 3 maps, at least; I would personally recommend possibly having to backtrack and open up new areas that you can only access from the old ones.

E - Spend an assload of time perfecting the maps. The guy I talked to said he would expect the levels to look like you spent about 100 hours on each one!!! THAT IS A LOT OF TIME. These guys are looking for attention to detail, polishing, high levels of interactivity, and above all good gameplay. If you were dedicated you should be able to create a map arc like this in about 3 months, which really isn't that long. You just have to keep at it, and keep your standards high.

#2 - BE COOL.
A lot of game companies will request an initial phone interview. This is basically to check up on your mapping experience (if you completed #1 above you will be all set on that mark!) and see what your personality is like. It is very important to be friendly and outgoing, but also fairly humble. If the first thing out of your mouth during the interview is "You assholes better hire me right this minute so I can fix everything that you've been doing wrong for the last 10 successful years" they are basically going to hang up on you, no matter how good your mapping portfolio is. BE COOL. Be excited about the job, and sell yourself, but do NOT be arrogant. They will shoot your ass down.

Developers use many different tools to create levels. It would be to your advantage to be familiar with as many of them as possible! The benefits are three-fold:

A - Chances are you will be familiar with the tools your target studio is using, which will be a big help towards getting hired (you won't need much training).

B - The process of learning to use multiple design environments will allow you to concentrate on learning how to make good levels period, instead of learning how to (for example) use Hammer or QRadiant at an uber-professional level.

C - You will get lots of practice in learning your way around new editors and modelers, and thus become better at it, shortening whatever training time you might need to use the target studio's software.

That's all for now!! As I garner more advice from failed interviews I will be sure to add it on here. Hopefully this helps somebody out there!

12 December 2003, 11:11 AM
Please keep this thread up!

I will bookmark it.
This is very helpfull cause I want to get in this business too (after completing school, after completing second school, after completing visuall training ...).

It could be very useful for everyone. There are so much wannabes out there and they and we should know what to do against this.

Perhaps some other guys could post their successfull or unsuccessfull contacts with game factories here.

That's it for the moment.
Have good day

(sorry for my poor english)

metal me solid
12 December 2003, 02:45 PM
that can be quite usefull at times, thanks :)

12 December 2003, 11:53 PM
this helps me alot, thx for your suggestions. I was trying to create all custom art for my level. including textures, but after reading your post, I'll just stick to doing a few custom static meshes and textures.

I haven't started out blocking the level in the editor, i guess i should do that first. lol. Thx for the great post!. Cause I was going to apply for an enviromental artist position, and I think i'll wait a few month more, until I have something good to show.

12 December 2003, 12:43 AM
interesting stuff you got there, thats not the first time i've been told that game companies are really interested in seeing single player stuff be it mods or advice thanks, oh and good luck in your next interviews :)

12 December 2003, 12:54 AM
Nice advice

12 December 2003, 01:00 AM
That is pretty close to the truth indeed. I would suggest a few more things to add to that list. Even though it doesn't really matter what engine you're making the maps for, I would suggest you have experience in all common ones as well (Vavle Hammer, Radiant, etc.) Some companies don't use commercial engines like Unreal, Quake III Arena, or Lithtech Jupiter even. Games like Descent 3, Hitman 2, and other games that are running on propritary engines were modeled in 3rd party software like MAX or Maya. I would suggest making a few levels in MAX, because that's what most companies use as their modeling tool. I know Valve uses XSI, in case you want to get a job with them, and I believe ID Software is using Maya. Basically, what I am trying to say is be knowledgable in as many software packages as possible, and be sure to find out which one the company you're trying to get a job with is using.

12 December 2003, 09:58 AM
All - glad this helps you!

Atenyotkin - cool, that is good to know. They didn't specifically mention this, but it is certainly sound advice. Working with a variety of packages is (imo) good practice anyway - keeps you closer to the theory instead of the syntax! I am adding it to the list right now.

CGTalk Moderation
01 January 2006, 09:00 PM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.